My role


Circumcision is no substitute for safe sex

Men have been warned today not to misinterpret the recent research apparently showing that being circumcised may reduce your risk of contracting HIV.

Clinical trails in Kenya and Uganda, which were widely reported last week, suggested that men who had been circumcised were half as likely to get HIV as uncircumcised men. The danger is that circumcised men will interpret this as meaning that they need worry less about safe sex. This is not the case. Condoms are still essential. Circumicised men do get HIV, they can also pass on this and all other sexually-transmitted infections and they are just as likely to make a woman pregnant as a man who has not been circumcised.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases which conducted the surveys, stressed that circumcision "must be seen as a powerful addition to, not a replacement for, other HIV prevention methods." He said the benefits could be negated by small decreases in condom use by men or if men add more sexual partners.

He added: "These results only apply to men where the risk of HIV transmission is through the penis. Transmission by injection drug use or receptive anal intercourse will not be affected by adult male circumcision."

Peter Baker, CEO of the MHF who run the malehealth website said: "This is important research but it's important to remember that most men born in the USA are circumcised and it clearly has not stopped the HIV epidemic there.

"There's also an important human rights issue about circumcising babies or boys who are clearly unable to give informed consent — circumcision should therefore only be considered an option for adult men. There are health risks attached to circumcision itself, even when performed by trained doctors in modern hospitals. And we do don't yet know whether circumcision actually reduces the risk of HIV transmission to women. For all these reasons, the best HIV prevention strategy must surely be improved health education and encouraging condom use, as well as wider action to tackle poverty and all the other social factors that increase risk."

Page created on December 19th, 2006

Page updated on December 1st, 2009